Essay and postpartum poems at Postpartum Progress
#BlogElul 16: Change

#BlogElul 15: Learn


There's always so much to learn.

There's Torah, and Torah is limitless. Not just the Five Books of Moses, not just the Tanakh (Torah, Prophets, Writings), not just Written Torah + Oral Torah, but the sum total of every text and commentary and insight relating to Torah writ large. Not just the black fire of the letters, but the white fire of the spaces in between.

There's daily life, and daily life is limitless too. I can learn something from everyone I meet. I can learn things from the experience of moving through the check-out line at the grocery store, from every email, from every Tweet and Facebook message, from every person I encounter everywhere I go.

There's the lived Torah of my own human experience, and that grows at the rate of one minute per minute. As each moment unfolds, the Torah of my life can become richer and more nuanced -- or dimmer and more attenuated, depending on the choices I make about how to be in the world.

I want to be someone who learns from every moment. From the sweet and from the bitter. From the joys (new poems, book publications, dinner with beloved friends, my son laughing with delight as he masters a new skill) and from the sorrows (my strokes -- or the brain damage of someone whose blog I've only recently started to read -- or the leukemia battled courageously by a little boy whose journey I follow online every day.) I'm not sure that our joys and sorrows happen in order for us to learn from them, but when we do learn from them, we make meaning in our lives.

I want to find the right balance between Torah learning and life learning, between dedicating myself to the rich and limitless world of my own tradition and to the rich and limitless world of, well, the world. I don't want to forget the breadth and depth of the wide world. I don't want to forget the breadth and depth of my own tradition. And I don't want to overlook the breadth and depth of what I can learn simply from being conscious in my own life. I want to be capable of learning even from my mistakes. Especially from my mistakes. How else will I avoid repeating them when life brings me -- when I bring myself -- to the same circumstances time and again?

There's an old saying that "we teach best what we most need to learn." What will I teach during the coming year? What is the learning I will need to integrate during 5774 in order to be the Rachel I most need (the world most needs me) to be? What will I need to learn this year?



Related: Balancing learning and work, 2008.